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Can Good Design Make You Healthier?

Will hospitals become like boutique hotels? Good design makes aging and ill health better.

What if hospitals and schools were designed like boutique hotels? Copenhagen County Hospital in Herlev, Denmark, was onto something in 1962 when they let painter and sculptor Poul Gernes transform the hospital into a multi-color art space. Gernes used color as medicine and transformed his public spaces with strong colors—bright yellows, greens, blues, pinks. He felt the colors of the rainbow had an important influence on our state of well being.

Today Omhu (Danish for "with great care) is trying to carry on Gerne's work. Omhu, who call themselves an activist agency, creates products that help. The curate a range of designers who make a category of products called Aids for Daily Living which sells things like Fresh Bath Transfer Board and an adult tricycle. Their Omhu cane is made of baltic birch, shaped like an elegant question market and come in Gernes's rainbow of colors.

Omhu Co-Founder Susan Towers:

New products coming to market next year include a bedside table, a walker, a shower chair and a cane dock, among others. All are intended to look like they belong in a home, not a hospital.Whether someone has a chronic illness, or a temporary disability (i.e.a hip replacement), we all need things that help us with the everyday activities of life. Why do they have to look so awful (as they mostly do now)? Why can you only buy them in pharmacies or medical supply stores - which people often don't know where to find (and the prices are high and in general, the shopping experience is pretty depressing).

Ohmu can only hope for the same results as Gernes hospital art experiment. After three months, the experiment was considered a success.

The colour scheme, on the whole, had a positive effect on the surroundings: the colour was perceived as a psychosomatic asset, an invigorating remedy, which could be ingested without pills or injections.

One woman claimed: "It’s more wonderful here than at the most expensive luxury hotel."

While the U.S. health-care system would never for patients lingering in hospitals, the Wallpaper-inspired generation is aging. Maybe geriatric-inspired design is our future. (Andres Balazs are you listening?)

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